Canada’s economy added 62,000 jobs last month, which is better than economists had been expecting, but it’s also the lowest total since the labour market recovery from COVID-19 began in May.
Statistics Canada reported Friday that the jobless rate ticked down four basis points to 8.5 per cent. That’s down from a peak of 13.7 per cent in May, but still well above the 5.6 per cent rate seen in February, before the pandemic.
Canada lost more than a million jobs in March and another two million in April, before the job market started to recover in May. According to Statscan, more than 19.1 million Canadians aged 15 or over had some sort of job in February. Last month, that figure stood at just over 18.6 million.
There are currently 1.7 million people in Canada officially categorized as unemployed, which means they would like to work but can’t find any. Roughly one quarter of them — 443,000 people — have been out of work for more than half a year.
Manitoba lost 18,000 jobs last month, while Ontario added 36,000 and Quebec 15,000. British Columbia added 23,000 and the Atlantic provinces added a total of 17,000.
Mostly full time
While the overall rate of job gains is undeniably slowing, economist Royce Mendes with CIBC did see some reason for optimism in the numbers, specifically the fact that most of the new jobs were full time, which boosted the total number of hours worked by 1.2 per cent — faster than the increase seen a month earlier.
But with cases spiking across Canada and more regions locking down more parts of the economy, he thinks the streak of job gains will come to an end this month.
“It’s likely that COVID will catch up with the Canadian economy in the December data, with a decline expected in both employment and overall economic activity,” Mendes said.
Leah Nord with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the job slowdown shows that the government needs to do a better jobs of testing for COVID-19 and tracing contacts, and making much broader use of rapid testing to ensure businesses stay open for the long Canadian winter ahead.
“The short-lived partial rebound in jobs is turning an unfortunate corner heading into a potentially protracted second wave,” she said. “As we look forward, we believe there is increasing risk for a steady decline in employment over the coming months as governments and health authorities grapple with transmission mitigation.”